The Japanese Convenience Store-Style Sandwich Specialist, Elevated - The Creamy, Fluffy Egg Salad, Crunchy Pork Cutlet & Eggplant Cutlet and Layered Omelette Sandwiches of Konbi [Thoughts + Pics]

#1

We had first heard about Konbi from Chef Brandon Go (of Hayato fame), talking about a new, casual Japanese restaurant that sold “Konbini-like sandwiches and little dishes” from a couple of his friends. We were curious, but it sounded more like a cute concept than a place we were in a hurry to try immediately. Then reading @J_L’s excellent early review, our interest was piqued so off we headed to the opening of Konbi!

From Chefs Akira Akuto and Nick Montgomery, Konbi feels like their homage to Japanese Konbini (Convenience Stores) Sandwiches and little easy-to-eat food items (Potato Salad, etc.), but elevated. The restaurant’s name -Konbi - feels like a play on the Japanese word for Convenience Store (Konbini).

The space is tiny but cozy, with a long, thin wooden bar seating about 10 people or so and that’s it. Every seat is nearly face-to-face with the chefs cooking right in front of you only a few feet away.

Our first visit was still in their Grand Opening phase, and Chefs Akuto and Montgomery were busy cooking and preparing every order.

Potato Salad (Crispy Okara, Togarashi):

Seeing a Japanese-style Potato Salad on the menu, we had to order it to see if this might be another version worth it for @bulavinaka to try. :slight_smile: It was nicely made, and we liked the crunchy topping of the Fried Okara (Soy Pulp), but it lacked the spark and amazing qualities that the best versions have.

Carrots (Roasted Shishito + Pistachio Dip, Nori):

Very good! :slight_smile: Tender Roasted Carrots, naturally sweet, when eaten with a dab of the Roasted Shishito Pepper and Pistachio Dip really brought out a nice flavor combination.

Pork Katsu Sandwich (Cabbage, Bulldog Sauce):

I was really excited to find a place making fresh Katsu Sando (Fried Pork Cutlet Sandwiches). However, we noticed that they had a few pre-fried Pork Cutlets sitting on a tray for incoming orders. I tried not to think about it too much, but after our order went in, sure enough they used one of the pre-fried Cutlets and made our Sandwich.

Taking a bite: Soft, soggy Pork Cutlet, really potent Bulldog Sauce, and just a disappointing result all around. :cry:

Konbi Chata:

Cool and refreshing, our server mentioned this was like their version of an Horchata. It tasted only lightly sweetened and was a nice foil with our other dishes.

Layered Omelette Sandwich (Dashi, Mayo, Dijon):

It’s crunchy (from the Toasted Milk Bread from Bub and Grandma’s), giving way to a fluffy, cloud-like beautiful Dashimaki Tamago (Layered Omelette), juicy and bursting with flavor! :heart:

Wow! @J_L was right. Fantastic, and probably the best Dashimaki Tamago Sando in L.A. right now. :blush:

Egg Salad Sandwich (Scallion, Mayo, Dijon):

Unfortunately their Egg Salad Sandwich was a big disappointment. As some FTC’ers mentioned, during this 1st visit we also got sturdy, semi-stale Japanese-style Milk Bread. :sob: It was borderline tough(!), not soft, and felt nothing like what a Japanese Convenience Store-style Sandwich should be like for the Bread. It’s even more disappointing in that it’s made by Bub and Grandma’s, which usually makes some fantastic Breads for various restaurants around L.A.

The staleness of the Milk Bread was hidden in the amazing Layered Omelette Sandwich because it’s toasted, so you get a crunchy, toasty exterior, but for the Egg Salad Sandwich, it’s untoasted, and you can taste any flaws immediately. :frowning:

The disappointment of the soft Katsu and the stale Bread for the Egg Salad dampened our enthusiasm for the place, and one of the reasons I didn’t write about Konbi sooner. However, we wanted to see how they might have changed after their Grand Opening period, so after waiting a bit, we returned…

2nd Visit:

Canele:

Hard and crusty on the outside, the inside turned out to be dryish and rather disappointing. :frowning:

Hazelnut Financier:

Dried out, but still nutty, this was terrible. :cry:

Houjicha Latte (Soy Milk):

Rather than hop on the Matcha Latte bandwagon sweeping L.A., Konbi offers up a Houjicha (Roasted Japanese Green Tea) Latte. We chose Soy Milk for this preparation, and it was airy, lightly nutty, delicious. :slight_smile:

Pork Katsu Sandwich (Cabbage, Bulldog Sauce):

This time, we noticed that the chefs were cooking the Tonkatsu (Deep Fried Pork Cutlet) to order. And taking a bite, a nice crunchy Tonkatsu filling! :blush:

But it’s a bit tough to get too excited, because we’re blessed with an amazing Tonkatsu specialist in L.A. with Kagura, which is far and away superior (from the various cuts of the Kurobuta Pork, to the crispy-crunchy batter and wonderful frying). The Bulldog Sauce also remains very potent, one of the saltiest, punchiest versions of Tonkatsu Sauce (sort of like a Japanese Worcestershire Sauce) we’ve had.

Croissant:
Time from Oven: 5 minutes.

Konbi’s plain Croissant uses a New Zealand Butter, we were able to sample this just minutes out of the oven.

First, notice how burnt it was (above). This led to a slight bitterness added to a relatively decent, straightforward Butter taste. It was also super greasy. :sob:

Chocolate Croissant:
Time from Oven: 5 minutes.

Their Chocolate Croissant was thankfully not burnt, and fared better. The New Zealand Butter was fine, but it was rather straightforward in flavor. Still having it arrive fresh from the oven with some melted Chocolate with the flaky Croissant showed promise.

3rd Visit:

We wanted to see what a few more weeks might do for the Pastry Chef and staff working in an extremely cramped kitchen. Their baking setup is tiny, as they usually only have enough room to bake 6 plain Croissants per batch(!).

Hot Sencha:

Konbi serves Kettl Tea, which is a nice touch: Kettl sources all of their Teas from Japan and are obsessive about working direct with Japanese Tea Farmers and good sourcing. Their Senchas are from a variety of farmers in Shizuoka, Kagoshima and beyond.

The Kettl Sencha used today was lightly earthy, aromatic, vegetal and refreshing. :slight_smile:

Layered Omelette Sandwich (Dashi, Mayo, Dijon):

Perfectly executed Dashmaki Tamago again. Creamy, supple, fluffy, moist. Awesome! :heart:

Eggplant Katsu Sandwich (Burnt Onion Dashi, Cabbage, Bulldog Sauce):

The first thing we noticed when eating the Eggplant Katsu Sandwich was the outer layer: The Bub and Grandma’s Japanese-style Milk Bread was soft! It was airy. It was like a good Japanese Milk Bread texture! :open_mouth:

It gave way to a crunchy, piping hot Eggplant Katsu (Deep Fried Eggplant “Cutlet”) center. Somehow the Eggplant, Burnt Onion Dashi, balanced out the Bulldog Sauce here, and it was fantastic! (Thanks @CiaoBob for the recommendation.) :heart:

The soft, fresh, non-stale Milk Bread here, made us place an order for an Egg Salad Sandwich to see if it could be elevated from our 1st visit.

Croissant:
Time from Oven: 1 minute.

For this 3rd visit, about 3 weeks later, the baking was improved. We arrived just as they were finishing a batch out of the oven(!). These arrived literally 1 minute after being removed from the oven. :slight_smile:

First, there are few culinary pleasures in the world as great as getting fresh-baked Pastries/Breads and being able to enjoy it piping hot. The Croissant was fantastic being so fresh, radiating heat still, and it exhibited a good crisp flakiness and a fluffy interior. :slight_smile:

However, the New Zealand Butter was merely fine. It was a step below the fragrant creations of places like Arsicault Bakery and Chaumont. But if we were local, we would be more than happy to enjoy these very good Croissants. :slight_smile:

Egg Salad Sandwich (Scallion, Mayo, Dijon):

Sure enough, just like with the Eggplant Katsu Sandwich we just had a few minutes earlier, the Egg Salad Sandwich was using the same beautiful, soft Bub and Grandma’s Milk Bread!

The Egg Salad Sandwich was a completely different beast with that change:

Imagine biting into this fluffy, soft, delicate Japanese-style Milk Bread exterior, which just seems to melt into a creamy, lush, satisfying Egg Salad interior, complete with an eye-catching semi-soft-boiled Egg in the middle, and you have Konbi’s (improved) Egg Salad Sandwich! :heart:

4th Visit:

At this point, we had a good idea of what to expect from Konbi’s menu and their Croissants, however thanks to a note by @moonboy403 that Konbi had just switched to a French Butter, we had to go back and see how much of a change there might be.

Croissant:
Time from Oven: 1 minute.

Speaking with the staff, we confirmed that Konbi had indeed just switched over to Isigny Butter from France. This is phenomenal, but also interesting because Konbi basically just switched over to using the same Butter as Chaumont!

We arrived luckily as they were finishing up their 2nd batch of Croissants for the day. We got ours straight out of the oven, and the difference from our first few visits compared to today’s was like night and day:

A beautiful fragrant, deep sweet Butter flavor (something that only great French Butters have been able to impart in Croissants we’ve tried so far), it’s crisped and flaky and airy. It is outstanding! :heart:

Being very nitpicky, it still comes across as a bit more greasy than Arsicault and Chaumont and Proof, as if the Pastry Chef is being overly generous and layering in too much Butter (still).

Canele:

Giving their Canele another try, this one turned out much better than the dried out desiccated version we had earlier. It was fine, but nowhere near as good as Proof’s, nor Republique’s.

Salad (Vegan) (Sugar Snap Peas, Hazelnuts, Chickpea Miso Vinaigrette):

Listed simply as “Salad (Vegan)”, Konbi’s seasonal Salad was very good: Bright, very fresh farmers market Greens, vibrant and refreshing, was the perfect base for the Sugar Snap Peas, Toasted Hazelnuts and the Chickpea Miso Vinaigrette. :slight_smile:

Pork Katsu Sandwich (Cabbage, Bulldog Sauce):

Freshly fried Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet) again. We wanted to see how consistent the taste was. By this 4th visit, the crunchy Tonkatsu center is there (great!), but they use too much Bulldog Sauce (Tonkatsu Sauce) which skews the Sandwich a touch too salty and acidic for our tastes. It’s not bad at all, but it’s not going to dethrone Kagura for a great Tonkatsu (this is Sandwich form, to be fair), but it’s also just a bit too punchy and salty with the Bulldog Sauce.

Still, if you’re in the mood for a Katsu Sandwich, Konbi is making the best version in the city that we’ve tried.

5th Visit:

We wanted to see how consistent this new phenomenal Croissant flavor would be, so we found ourselves back for a 5th visit.

Hazelnut Financier:

This 2nd time trying their Hazelnut Financier was also much better than the 1st time (which was dried out). It had a good nutty flavor that only Hazelnut can impart, but as a Financier? It was pretty average.

Croissant:
Time from Oven: 30 minutes.

We lucked out in that for this visit, there was one plain Croissant unsold from the morning batch. However it had been out for 30 minutes (which in terms of almost every other Bakery in L.A. is a stellar “fresh time window” to be able to enjoy a Croissant), but it was important to see how Konbi’s would hold up when not enjoyed fresh out of the oven.

It was room temperature / cold by now, but still had good crispness and flakiness. However the greatest joy and spark from the previous Croissant with Isigny French Butter fresh out of the oven was gone (being piping hot), and in this light, the Croissant was good and had a nice deep French Buttery taste, slightly sweet even, but it was greasy and slightly charred on one edge (uneven baking).

Potato Salad (Crispy Okara, Togarashi):

This was pretty consistent from our first time trying it: A respectable Japanese-style Potato Salad. It was a touch on the piquant side, but generally enjoyable.

Hot Sencha:

The freshly brewed, loose-leaf Sencha (Japanese Green Tea) from Kettl. As before, it is earthy, deeply flavorful and a great start to the morning! :slight_smile:

Egg Salad Sandwich (Scallion, Mayo, Dijon):

As great as our last visit! The Bub and Grandma’s Japanese-style Milk Bread is soft, airy, and the Egg Salad filling is creamy, lush, satisfying! :heart:

Whatever Konbi did (whether they are now selling through Bread fast enough, or that Bub and Grandma’s improved their baking and freshness), the base Japanese-style Milk Bread is now consistently soft and fluffy and airy. This makes all the difference in the world.

Layered Omelette Sandwich (Dashi, Mayo, Dijon):

Stupid good! Again. :heart:

We noticed that Chef Montgomery has been the one consistently making our Dashimaki Tamago Sandwiches, and that might be the reason it’s always so amazing. Juicy(!), soft, fluffy, great umami flavors coming through. So good! :blush:

6th Visit:

Croissant:
Time from Oven: 35 minutes.

On a weekday, there’s more of a chance you’re able to actually get a plain Croissant from Konbi, and on this 6th visit, there were still a couple Croissants left from the final batch of the day.

With this Croissant being out of the oven for 35 minutes (still a great window for most of the best Bakeries around town and in SF), the flavor was good. There was a nice crispness and airiness still. But removing the unrealistic, fresh-out-of-the-oven experience, the final taste was still “great” but not “amazing.”

When cooled, Konbi’s Croissant is greasier than Arsicault, Chaumont and Maison Giraud (RIP). We brought along a dear friend who’s tried Croissants in Paris and at the late Anisette (Santa Monica), and she confirmed that the flavors were not as good.

But this is being nitpicky on purpose, for discerning our favorite Croissants locally. :wink: Ultimately, Konbi makes a great plain Croissant with the switch to Isigny Butter. If you’re lucky enough to show up when they’re pulling a batch out of the oven, it is fantastic and one of the best morning tastes worth experiencing. :slight_smile:

However, it should be noted Konbi has limited space: They only make 6(!) plain Croissants per batch. And depending on the day, they’ll make only 2 batches (or 3 at the most). Given how limited the quantities are, it’s a bit unrealistic for many to make the rush over to the restaurant early enough to buy a Croissant before it sells out. However, if you’re around, don’t miss out.

Eggplant Katsu Sandwich (Burnt Onion Dashi, Cabbage, Bulldog Sauce):

Cloud-like exterior, crispy, piping hot, freshly-fried Eggplant Katsu interior, we like this a lot more than the Pork Katsu Sandwich. Great! :heart:

Genmai Matcha:

Nutty, herbal, perfect, especially for what’s coming next.

Japanese Breakfast Set (Weekdays Only):

Yes! We have another entry into the Japanese Breakfast scene (@PorkyBelly @attran99 @Ns1 @chinchi @A5KOBE @bulavinaka and others).

Broiled Black Cod (Nori, Yuzu):

First, the quality of the Fish portion of this Japanese Breakfast is crazy-high: The Broiled Black Cod is perfectly cooked, moist, flaky, like a medium-rare. It’s served with Crisped Black Cod Skin(!) (like Fish Chicharrones), which is awesome. :heart:

However, it is very lightly seasoned. Compared to the various Fish we had at the Japanese Breakfast spots like Fukagawa and Ise-Shima locally (and what my friend from Tokyo said she ate regularly back in Japan), this felt almost underseasoned.

It wasn’t bad, but in being so delicate, and lightly salted, it felt like something was missing. But otherwise, amazing quality Fish.

Fresh Pickles:

These were very tart and salty, probably meant to be a counter to the Fish itself. They were nicely made, but maybe too salty for my tastes.

Supreme Tofu (Negi Confit, Shiso, Crispy Buckwheat):

One big plus: Konbi uses local Tofu maker, Meiji Tofu (Gardena) for this Supreme Tofu dish. It is extremely silky, refined, and I loved the Negi Confit, Shiso and the Crispy, Toasted Buckwheat and Dashi! Delicious. :blush:

8 Grain Rice:

I appreciate the healthier option for an 8 Grain Rice (as opposed to the usual Steamed White Rice). It was nutty, nuanced and went great with the rest of the small dishes in this set. :slight_smile:

Broccolini (Benne Seed & Almond Dressing):

This was tasty by itself, but tasted out of place in a “Japanese Breakfast”: It tasted like a nice “Vegan Salad” you might find at Cafe Gratitude, healthy, clean, good veggie flavors, but very “American Vegan” flavor and vibe.

Omelette (Dashi, Grated Daikon):

This was a little disappointing: It was well-made, but served chilled / cold. :frowning: It was also denser than the amazing, freshly-made Dashimaki Tamago (Layered Omelette) in the Sandwich, but it’s understandable: You’re ordering a full Omelette Sandwich, vs. here, there are 2 tiny cubes of Omelette for the Breakfast set. But after knowing what Chef Montgomery can do with a Dashimaki Tamago (Layered Omelette), freshly made and piping hot, fluffy, having this chilled, small denser block feels a bit like a letdown.

At $24 (+ tax & tip), Konbi’s Japanese Breakfast is far more expensive than Fukagawa and even Ise-Shima (which is All-You-Can-Eat). Some of the parts of this set are fantastic and quite elevated (the Black Cod, the Supreme Tofu, 8 Grain Rice), but it also seems to lack the satisfying heart of a traditional Japanese Breakfast. We’d definitely stop by to eat it if we’re in the area.

Service is very casual, it feels like an American diner in some ways, but everyone’s friendly and plates are cleaned and drinks refilled.

Konbi is one of those examples of a new fledgling restaurant finding it’s footing and improving from its early days: A casual, small, cozy restaurant delivering Japanese Convenience Store-style Sandwiches and other small dishes, but executed at a much higher level.

It feels like something very L.A., yet also paying homage to another culture: Delivering Pork Cutlet Sandwiches, Potato Salad, impeccably sourced Japanese Teas direct from farmers in Japan. But it also doesn’t bat an eye delivering a very good, but California-esque Vegan Salad, Cortados, Iced Mocha and a variety of French Pastries while Ariana Grande sings through the speakers.

But take one bite of the ethereal Dashmaki Tamago Sando (Layered Omelette Sandwich), the much-improved Egg Salad Sandwich with cloud-like Japanese-style Milk Bread, and you’re suddenly at a Lawson’s in Tokyo enjoying Japanese Sandwich happiness… if it was made by professionally-trained chefs.

Konbi
1463 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

https://konbila.com/

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#2

:star_struck: Your commitment to quality control is second to none, @Chowseeker1999! My best friend spent 4+ years teaching in Japan, and I think this would be a fun reminder of her time there. Thanks! I’m going to make a point to take her here for those moments where she misses Japan.
Does Konbi have the best egg salad sandwich in the city now? Since EuroPane is a bust now. Konbi’s version looks just lovely.

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#3

The Insta-crowd may be in love with that egg salad sandwich, but at Konbi my heart will always belong to the layered omelette sandwich.

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#4

Thanks @attran99. :slight_smile: I think you’d like it.

Egg Salad? Probably. It’s a different type of sandwich compared to Euro Pane’s. When Euro Pane was at its peak (before it was sold), it was amazing! Konbi’s version was never close to that.

However, for this Konbini-style sandwich? I think it’s the best version we’ve tried locally. :slight_smile:

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#5

Great reviews. It’s funny to think of Bulldog sauce as ‘salty’ I guess it may be. For me it’s what I grew up with and the standard by which all tonkatsu sauce is measured.

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#6

Yes! Love their Layered Omelette Sandwich! It’s so fluffy, piping hot and freshly made to order. Thanks again @J_L for the recommendation. :slight_smile:

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#7

Next time we hit the Tomago stand, we’ll be sure to BYOB(read). :slight_smile:

Favorite Egg Salad Sandwich of all times. Purchased from an elderly gentleman in Kokusai Dori in Okinawa. He had an irresistible lineup of sandwiches on a low, maybe one metre high table. I was leaning over his table enthusiastically perusing his wares, when I felt my center of gravity shifting alarmingly over my center axis. My internal stall alarm was going crazy. I starting frantically windmilling my arms like a fledgling attempting first flight. I recovered just before I did a face plant on this poor guy’s table.

My wife (who did not try to stop my fall) stood by laughing uncontrollably. Two demure well-coiffed aunties nearby discreetly laughed into their hands. The sandwich man looked at me with a smile, Gaijin!! I was way too relieved to be pissed, having narrowly avoided smashing into this gentleman’s entire daily inventory and having to eat nothing but smooshed sandos for the remainder of the trip.

Took our ONE egg salad sandwich to the Gyokusendo Caves, watched a Mongoose fight a Cobra, loved the sandwich. Best Evah.

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#8

Your tale of the near miss made my heart skip a beat as I read it.

Reminds me of a story: One of my buddies was at Kazunori (the handroll joint), seated at the counter right where chef kept all the fresh handroll filling AKA “goodies” (scallops, tuna, salmon, etc.), which were kept just on the other side of the counter. As he reached for more shoyu, he tipped over his large glass of green iced tea, which proceeded to spill forth all its contents, directly INTO the goodies bins! Much gnashing of teeth ensued…

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#9

@Google_Gourmet You seem to be having a wonderful time in Japan.

But with all due respect, can we please keep the Japan posts in the Asia section?
These posts are taking humblebrag to new heights.

Edit: Ok, upon further review, based on likes, people seem to be loving your posts wherever they are. Carry on, (you braggart :stuck_out_tongue:!)

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#10

Duly noted. :slight_smile:

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#11

Or maybe crossposting? Might be helpful for those visiting Japan, and it’s easy enough to click on a link from the LA board. :slight_smile:

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#12

I find his attention seeking humblebrag posts completely unhelpful for this forum section.

Would prob be great if it was posted in the asia section or cross-posted tho.

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#13

Classy response.

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